Learning from Jabez

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Last week I wrote a Facebook post on the Prayer of Jabez. It was not my best work. I woke the other day with that on my mind as the Lord was speaking to me in my dream about the part I glossed over, his name. His mother named him Jabez, because she bore him in pain. What a thing to do to your child.

Names. We are given a name at birth. Some parents try to make them as unusual as they can making up their own names or spellings, while others research meanings and try to pick just the right one.

We often have nick names or “pet” names given to us by others. Sometimes the names are the taunts of cruel children on the playground, a sibling or even a parent. I am sure Jabez knew something about that, being named a pain by his own mother.

Then there are the names we give ourselves (that the enemy feeds us) that highlight what we see as our faults and failures.

But the most awesome name we are given is the one we get when we receive Jesus as our Savior and Lord, Child of God!

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All those names that taunt and tease, and try to hold us down, only have power over us if we believe them. That’s where knowing the Word of God comes in handy. When we know who God says we are and let that truth sink deep into our souls (the Sword of the Spirit) there’s no room for those lies.

dcf901b237e3f70a3743dfd05cc7d07fI love that Jabez did not let his name define him. The first thing we are told about Jabez is that he was more honorable that all of his brothers. For someone who was likely teased by siblings and others about his name,  he did not let it make him bitter. He chose the higher way.  God’s way. He did not let it limit him or limit what he sought from God.

I know for much of my life I let those taunting names define my self-worth and limit the power of God to work in my life,  because I did not seek it. I did not seek, because I believed I was too broken and unlovable and unworthy.

Even as a believer I could pray in faith for everyone except me. I knew God could do whatever I needed, but I doubted if He would do it for me. Well, we are all unworthy (Romans 3:23) until Jesus comes into our hearts and makes us new. He made a way for us to become children of God (John 1:12). He makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT.

Let me tell you, don’t listen to the enemy’s lies. He will do whatever it takes to belittle you and distract you from being all God created you to be. Don’t let the enemy tempt you with comparisons, either. You were created as a unique person for a specific purpose that is solely yours. Each of our journies may be similar in some ways, but we each have a different path that God has laid before us. And His timing is perfect for when things happen in each life. Just because Jane Doe over there started doing something in her 30s doesn’t mean it’s too late for me in my 50s. Instead of comparing be preparing yourself in the Word and in prayer. Be ready when the Lord calls and answer by following wherever He leads. 

Since I have learned what the Bible says about who I am I started taking those negative thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5)  and replacing those lies with God’s truth. Now I am able to wield that Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) with skill and accuracy (see Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4:1-11). You can and must, too!

Let’s take another look at Jabez’s prayer:

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He trusted God to bless him. He was bold enough to ask God to enlarge his territory. Territory equals land and that equals wealth and standing in the community which equals increasing his sphere of influence. Jabez knew he needed God to be with him to handle life’s ups and downs and to help him resist evil influences. If children in his time were anything like they are today he probably got teased about being a “pain.” He knew pain and he didn’t want to cause pain to himself or anyone else. He was an honorable man and God honored Jabez for it by granting his request.

“You do not have, because you do not ask” James 4:2 ESV.

What requests have you hidden in your heart, because you are afraid to ask God to grant your request? Do you feel undeserving of God’s love and care? Take it all to the Lord and let Him show You how much He loves you. Memorize some of the verses in the “Who I Am In Christ” list above, so you are armed for battle when the enemy taunts and teases you. Then present your petitions to God (Philippians 4:6-7). And see what He does in your life! 

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Blessings and peace,

Julia

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A Place of Surrender

(For week 5 Blog Hop A Confident Heart) #IAmNot

    We moved to Missouri 3 years and 4 months ago. Rewind to about two and a half years before we moved. We were considering remodeling our living room, dining room, and kitchen to become one great room. One day as I was trying to figure out where to move the refrigerator and some cabinets I heard the Lord tell my heart, “Don’t worry about it. You won’t be here.” I let go of the remodeling idea. The idea of moving was exciting when I thought about where I would want to move. Hubby and I always wanted to live on the central coast of California. It would be far from our families, but only a 5-6 hour drive. Doable for fairly frequent visits.
    Some how I got a time frame in my head of within 18 months. Have you ever had a clear message from God only to in the next thought add your own two cents? I kept this idea of moving within 18 months in my head. But, once my time frame passed I forgot about it. I figured it must have been all me and not God.
    Then in August 2009 I get laid off in the first of a series of city lay offs stemming from the State of California’s financial problems. We had been told that someone from each department would be laid off. One by one we who were being laid off were called down to the assistant city manager’s office. As I sat down I said, it’s me. He and the personnel director asked, How did I know? They didn’t even know until now. I told them I just knew it was going to be me. I believe God prepared my spirit to hear the news.
    I had a very stressful job. At first I was upset about being laid off, but after a while of being unemployed I became less stressed even though I wasn’t working and money was tight. I began seeing that God’s hand of provision was actually in the lay off. I got a month’s severance, paid medical through the end of the year, letters of recommendation, and I was even allowed to use unused vacation in lieu of finishing out the week at work. It was too hard trying to work knowing I was being let go. There were at least 2 or 3 more rounds of lay offs to come. None of them got a package like we did and on at least one of the rounds, they were given 1 month’s native, but they had to work the full month knowing they were being laid off. If they left early they would be considered as quitting and be denied unemployment.
    For the people left behind, conditions on the job became more stressful as fewer people tried to accomplish the same work load. I began seeing how God was providing for me not only in the package I had received, but in not being there to work in the increasingly stressful work environment.
    Meanwhile, my husband’s employer had some big lawsuits that caused them to file bankruptcy. Just before Christmas we learned the company was being sold as part of the bankruptcy. The highest bidder so far had been another local business.
    When hubby went back to work after the new year they were informed that the company had been sold to a company in St. Louis. There were reps from the new company there. They asked hubby if he wanted to move. He came home and asked me if I wanted to move to St. Louis. My first reaction was no, but before I could open my mouth, the Holy Spirit reminded me of what He told me about 2 years before. “Yes” came out of my mouth. I surrendered. Missouri was a far cry from Southern California or my dream of California’s Central Coast.
    Hubby was put in charge of the move on the California end. It would take about 6 months to get everything organized and shipped, including making a stock of parts to be used to fill orders during the actual move.
    We had lived in our house 17 years, without many upgrades. We worked for months to get the house ready to sell. I cashed in my retirement funds to help pay for it. It took a while to get packed, painted, re-do the carpet and flooring, etc. We got the house on the market only a month before we were leaving. We sold it in two weeks, for our asking price. Absolutely amazing in June 2010.
    The Saturday before we left California our daughter revealed she and her hubby were expecting their first child. YAY! We were excited that we were finally going to be grandparents. BOO! We were moving away. The next morning I cried out to God during worship. Why God, do we have to move now that we have a grandbaby on the way? I heard, “you have a choice. You don’t have to move. But…”  I could choose to stay (not a real option after selling the house and no jobs), but I would be out of God’s will. He would be under no obligation to bless anything we did if we stayed. I knew it was Gods plan for us to move, so I surrendered, again. It was much harder this time.
    We moved, driving one of our cars, over the July 4th holiday week. Then another blow. We were in Winslow, Arizona when our realtor called saying the appraisal came in $19,000 under the agreed/asking price. The buyer’s lender would not go for it, even though their down would cover the difference, plus. We did not have time to look for another buyer in hopes a different appraisal would go better, so we surrendered to a lower price.
     God is good! We still got a good amount for our house that paid off our mortgage and our mountain of other debt, with some to spare. Hubby’s new employer let him keep his 35 years of service/seniority, gave him a raise, a signing bonus after we arrived, and they paid all the moving expenses. That’s God!
    Some months ago a friend and sister in Christ said to me, maybe God had to move me away from the grandkids (#5 was just born last month and #6 is due in February), because I would be such a dedicated grandma that I might not do all the things God has in store for me to accomplish. Wisdom, I didn’t want to hear.
    I have dealt with depression over the move, that at first nearly stopped me from functioning. And fear and procrastination may have delayed some of the ministry God has for me to do. But, even as I am writing this, the sound track in my head is playing Mandisa’s song “Overcomer.” God is not finished with me. I am learning through this difficult process. I am challenged, but I am supported by God’s Holy Spirit and the many sister-friends He has given me here in Missouri and through these wonderful online bible studies through the ministry of proverbs31.org.
    Surrender is not only the thing we do during big life changing decisions, but it is a daily thing, and a moment to moment thing. Do we listen to God’s voice as we make our every day decisions. Do we recognize the divine appointments God puts in our path and respond when He calls us to touch someone’s life? Do we follow and surrender our thoughts and ideas to Him even in the little things in our lives? I am learning that if we want God’s best we must give Him all we are and all we have in surrender and He will give us a life we could not possibly hope for or imagine. Although it is still difficult being so far away from our family, I have learned to cope and I am thankful that unlike Abraham who had to leave home and family forever, we have technology that keeps us close and rapid transportation that allows us to visit on occasion. I have learned that focusing on me, my circumstances, and my feelings only brings self-pity, defeat, and depression. When I focus on what God has for me to do, I feel joy and peace, and pleasure in knowing I am doing what He has for me to do.

    Heavenly Father, I ask Your blessing upon everyone who reads this blog post. May we all tune our ears to hear Your voice every moment, every day. May we surrender our will and our plan to Your perfect will and Your perfect plan for our lives. Life is not easy with or without You, but help us to say, “I will take hard with You over hard or even easy without You! You are my Rock, my strength, my joy, my peace, my everything!” In Jesus’ name we surrender our lives and our will to You, amen.

A Place of Surrender

(For week 5 Blog Hop A Confident Heart) #IAmNot

    We moved to Missouri 3 years and 4 months ago. Rewind to about two and a half years before we moved. We were considering remodeling our living room, dining room, and kitchen to become one great room. One day as I was trying to figure out where to move the refrigerator and some cabinets I heard the Lord tell my heart, “Don’t worry about it. You won’t be here.” I let go of the remodeling idea. The idea of moving was exciting when I thought about where I would want to move. Hubby and I always wanted to live on the central coast of California. It would be far from our families, but only a 5-6 hour drive. Doable for fairly frequent visits.
    Some how I got a time frame in my head of within 18 months. Have you ever had a clear message from God only to in the next thought add your own two cents? I kept this idea of moving within 18 months in my head. But, once my time frame passed I forgot about it. I figured it must have been all me and not God.
    Then in August 2009 I get laid off in the first of a series of city lay offs stemming from the State of California’s financial problems. We had been told that someone from each department would be laid off. One by one we who were being laid off were called down to the assistant city manager’s office. As I sat down I said, it’s me. He and the personnel director asked, How did I know? They didn’t even know until now. I told them I just knew it was going to be me. I believe God prepared my spirit to hear the news.
    I had a very stressful job. At first I was upset about being laid off, but after a while of being unemployed I became less stressed even though I wasn’t working and money was tight. I began seeing that God’s hand of provision was actually in the lay off. I got a month’s severance, paid medical through the end of the year, letters of recommendation, and I was even allowed to use unused vacation in lieu of finishing out the week at work. It was too hard trying to work knowing I was being let go. There were at least 2 or 3 more rounds of lay offs to come. None of them got a package like we did and on at least one of the rounds, they were given 1 month’s native, but they had to work the full month knowing they were being laid off. If they left early they would be considered as quitting and be denied unemployment.
    For the people left behind, conditions on the job became more stressful as fewer people tried to accomplish the same work load. I began seeing how God was providing for me not only in the package I had received, but in not being there to work in the increasingly stressful work environment.
    Meanwhile, my husband’s employer had some big lawsuits that caused them to file bankruptcy. Just before Christmas we learned the company was being sold as part of the bankruptcy. The highest bidder so far had been another local business.
    When hubby went back to work after the new year they were informed that the company had been sold to a company in St. Louis. There were reps from the new company there. They asked hubby if he wanted to move. He came home and asked me if I wanted to move to St. Louis. My first reaction was no, but before I could open my mouth, the Holy Spirit reminded me of what He told me about 2 years before. “Yes” came out of my mouth. I surrendered. Missouri was a far cry from Southern California or my dream of California’s Central Coast.
    Hubby was put in charge of the move on the California end. It would take about 6 months to get everything organized and shipped, including making a stock of parts to be used to fill orders during the actual move.
    We had lived in our house 17 years, without many upgrades. We worked for months to get the house ready to sell. I cashed in my retirement funds to help pay for it. It took a while to get packed, painted, re-do the carpet and flooring, etc. We got the house on the market only a month before we were leaving. We sold it in two weeks, for our asking price. Absolutely amazing in June 2010.
    The Saturday before we left California our daughter revealed she and her hubby were expecting their first child. YAY! We were excited that we were finally going to be grandparents. BOO! We were moving away. The next morning I cried out to God during worship. Why God, do we have to move now that we have a grandbaby on the way? I heard, “you have a choice. You don’t have to move. But…”  I could choose to stay (not a real option after selling the house and no jobs), but I would be out of God’s will. He would be under no obligation to bless anything we did if we stayed. I knew it was Gods plan for us to move, so I surrendered, again. It was much harder this time.
    We moved, driving one of our cars, over the July 4th holiday week. Then another blow. We were in Winslow, Arizona when our realtor called saying the appraisal came in $19,000 under the agreed/asking price. The buyer’s lender would not go for it, even though their down would cover the difference, plus. We did not have time to look for another buyer in hopes a different appraisal would go better, so we surrendered to a lower price.
     God is good! We still got a good amount for our house that paid off our mortgage and our mountain of other debt, with some to spare. Hubby’s new employer let him keep his 35 years of service/seniority, gave him a raise, a signing bonus after we arrived, and they paid all the moving expenses. That’s God!
    Some months ago a friend and sister in Christ said to me, maybe God had to move me away from the grandkids (#5 was just born last month and #6 is due in February), because I would be such a dedicated grandma that I might not do all the things God has in store for me to accomplish. Wisdom, I didn’t want to hear.
    I have dealt with depression over the move, that at first nearly stopped me from functioning. And fear and procrastination may have delayed some of the ministry God has for me to do. But, even as I am writing this, the sound track in my head is playing Mandisa’s song “Overcomer.” God is not finished with me. I am learning through this difficult process. I am challenged, but I am supported by God’s Holy Spirit and the many sister-friends He has given me here in Missouri and through these wonderful online bible studies through the ministry of proverbs31.org.
    Surrender is not only the thing we do during big life changing decisions, but it is a daily thing, and a moment to moment thing. Do we listen to God’s voice as we make our every day decisions. Do we recognize the divine appointments God puts in our path and respond when He calls us to touch someone’s life? Do we follow and surrender our thoughts and ideas to Him even in the little things in our lives? I am learning that if we want God’s best we must give Him all we are and all we have in surrender and He will give us a life we could not possibly hope for or imagine. Although it is still difficult being so far away from our family, I have learned to cope and I am thankful that unlike Abraham who had to leave home and family forever, we have technology that keeps us close and rapid transportation that allows us to visit on occasion. I have learned that focusing on me, my circumstances, and my feelings only brings self-pity, defeat, and depression. When I focus on what God has for me to do, I feel joy and peace, and pleasure in knowing I am doing what He has for me to do.

    Heavenly Father, I ask Your blessing upon everyone who reads this blog post. May we all tune our ears to hear Your voice every moment, every day. May we surrender our will and our plan to Your perfect will and Your perfect plan for our lives. Life is not easy with or without You, but help us to say, “I will take hard with You over hard or even easy without You! You are my Rock, my strength, my joy, my peace, my everything!” In Jesus’ name we surrender our lives and our will to You, amen.

#ISaidYes

My last Blog Hop entry for the online Bible study, “What Happens When Women Say Yes To God” by Lysa TerKeurst.

I just made up a new word, God-incidence. Definition: What some would call coincidence. But I know God is in control and He is the one that makes it all work together.

This new word came to me as I was finishing the last chapter of the Bible study book. Just that morning I was thinking and praying about how I am sometimes too concerned with my own comfort – whether it be physical comfort (I hate to sweat) or social comfort aka a situational comfort zone. Then I read in the book,
    “Life isn’t about being comfortable and taking the easy route. It’s 
    about living to give our lives away and make a real impact in this
    world.” -Lysa TerKeurst, What Happens When Women Say Yes To
    God.
I was once again reminded that this life is not about me, it’s about Jesus. “He must increase, but I must decrease” John 3:30 NASB. Saying yes to God is a continual thing. Each day, each moment brings opportunities to say yes to something God wants to do in us or through us.

When we started this study I was at a point where I had lost my passion and lost sight of my vision – the dream God had given me. I had already been praying for God to renew the passion for writing and the vision He had given to me. I had been staled and feeling overwhelmed by the feeling that I need to get this book finished. I would get frustrated waiting for God to show me the next step toward fulfilling His vision for me. I kept hearing, “finish the step you’re on,” which IS the book. That added to my anxiety, because I just wasn’t feeling it. Then I heard Him telling me that I needed to take a step and start working on writing again and THEN He would show up and renew the passion. We always have something to do, some step of faith to take, before God does His part. He want us to put that faith and trust to work even when we can’t yet see or feel Him working. That is the essence of faith.

God has used the opportunities to blog and comment during Facebook parties and daily emails to stir up the writing desire within me once again. God showed up just as He said He would. I am feeling much more peace in my heart and a renewed passion for writing. One day as I was commenting on something I was re-posting on my own Facebook page I realized that what I was writing was the answer to the part of the book that was just not working. I had started what I was writing with, ” Yes Lord. Here I am Lord.” And did He ever show up. When we say Yes to God with humble and sincere hearts God shows up in amazing and unusual ways.

Taking a step of faith requires us to get out of our comfort zones. I have started noticing that when God is leading us to step out of our own comforts He will start making us less comfortable in that “zone.” I have to admit I watch too much television. Even if I’m not sitting in front of it I often keep it on for “company.” The trouble is with that worldly noise filling the air it makes it hard to hear the still small voice of the Lord. He has been making me less comfortable with TV and shows I really like are not as interesting to me as they once were. As I keep saying yes to God, He keeps changing me and my priorities. I am turning off the TV more, and listening for God’s voice even more. When I want to sing and dance and praise the Lord I put on Christian music and when I need a little background noise to help me concentrate (I’m sure I was not the only teen who had to listen to music while I studied), I have been putting on the light classical Music Choice channel softly in the background. I’m not sure why this works for me, but it does. I have a tendency to be easily distracted. I guess the music occupies that part of my brain, so I can concentrate better. Anyway, changing things up and yielding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit may take me out of my “comfort zone,” but it leaves me with a feeling of peace and rest in my heart when I have completed the task, as though my heart is hearing my heavenly Father say well done my child. Welcome to the new comfort zone – Radical Obedience.

I was already planning to lead this study with my small group this Fall when I saw the opportunity to do this study online with y’all. I was led to say yes to this amazing adventure. You wonderful ladies from all over this country and around the world have prayed for me and encouraged me through comments on my blog and the life stories you’ve shared on your own blogs. I’ve learned new things, like verse mapping, which I can share with my group. And I know that God is going to do amazing things in and through each of us – the 24,000 women from every corner of this world – as we continue to say YES to God each day. Our radical obedience to a God who radically loves us will lead to many radical blessings, which will equip us even more to be a blessing to others. I’m looking forward to doing “A Confident Heart” by Renee Swope with y’all next.

Much love to all my sisters,
Julia

http://proverbs31.org/online-bible-studies/current-study/

The Rock of Ages

Isaiah 26:4: Young’s Literal Translation, “Trust ye in Jehovah for ever, For in Jah Jehovah is a rock of ages”      

Darby Bible Translation, “Confide ye in Jehovah for ever; for in Jah, Jehovah, is the rock of ages.”

I’ve been listening to a new Steven Curtis Chapman CD (Deep Roots available at Cracker Barrel or Crackerbarrel.com) of old familiar hymns including Rock of Ages. I’ve sung that hymn probably 100s of times, yet it’s only since I got this CD that the lyrics really started speaking to me. I feel a smile come over my face as a picture forms in my mind when I hear, “Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” I see the Rock moving to form a space, a shelter in which I can hide. In that cleft (cave) I am enveloped in The Lord’s strength, embraced by His power, and safe in His love. Whether it’s translated The Rock ofAges, The Eternal Rock, or The Everlasting Rock, this Rock will never crumble, crack, or roll away. Our God is strong steadfast, and true.

1 Chronicles 16:11 (NASB),  Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.

When we’re in the “cleft” of the Rock, we are in His presence. One of the reasons I like this verse is the word continually. We need to seek God’s presence continually, not just in the hard times. Could it be that we might be able to miss some of the hard times if we did this. Some versions of this verse use the word presence instead of face. Both words are good, but I like the face version of this verse because it emphasizes we need to be seeking God’s face and not just His hand of provision and protection. Face time with the Lord. I want face time like Moses (Exodus 33.11, 21-23) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:9-18) had with the Lord. Even Abraham was called God’s friend (Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23) and he conversed and even debated with the Lord (Genesis 18:16-33). God wants us to be real and truthful with Him. Even if what we are feeling is anger, fear, or doubt, we can bring it all to God because it is the real truth of how we feel. There is no point in prentending or sugar coating things for God. He knows our thoughts and the condition of our hearts. He just wants us to come to Him acknowledging that He is bigger than our problems and only He can help us through them.

I find much wisdom and solace in the Psalms. David sometimes lamented to God about the trials he was going through. Read Psalm 22. http://niv.scripturetext.com/psalms/22.htm This is a great example of how David cried out to God in his troubles, yet he never forgot that God was more than able to meet his needs and rescue him from his troubles. Sometimes we just need to pour out all those feelings, to let go of them. That’s okay, more than okay. Just don’t forget that He is The Rock of all the Ages and He will never let you down. It’s a matter of trusting God and His timing to make it all work out for us, the ones He loves, that He has called to fulfill His purposes for our lives (Romans 8:28) and the lives of people we touch. The hardest times we will have to face in our lives (tests) then become our testimony. Our testimony is what has prepared us to help others through similar experiences. God reveals Himself to us and through us to other people. So, when you are going through trials, seek the Lord, but also ask Him to direct you to another believer who can come along side of you to help you walk through the test/trial. Then, when you have gone through and have your testimony, keep your eyes and ears open for God to lead you to someone else who needs your help in the same way. I have found it truly amazing how the Lord has seen me through some of the hardest times in my life, brought someone else into my life with similar cicrumstances that I could be His hands, feet and mouth (to speak). I have seen God changes lives and I have been able to praise God for the troubles I had because I was able to relate to and help another person through their trials. It is healing to your own soul, too. Hallelujah! God is good!

David knew what it was like to be afraid and tired of his circumstances. He spent years running and hiding in caves as King Saul pursued him wanting to kill him (see 1 Samuel 19:1-31:6 for the story of Saul’s pursuit of David to kill him and how both men handled their relationship with God). David not only wrote psalms of lament, but also wrote many about the Lord being his Rock, Shield, and Fortress  (ex: Psalms 18,  19, 28, 31, 33…). He found safety and protection not only in the physical caves, but in the presence of the Lord. That’s where we need to live. In so personal a relationship with the Lord that we are comfortable in His embrace and continually talking to Him, sharing our inmost fears, wants, and needs.

Remember this when you are going through trials in your life and you don’t think you can take another moment in your circumstances: 2 Samuel 22:2-3, 47 The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior– from violent people you save me. “The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!

Blessings,

Julia